2 January 2006
Out of This World Caramels
Some weeks ago, Matthew heard an interview on the Diane Rhem show with Nancy Baggett, the author of The All-American Dessert Book. She was talking about the “famous” Roswell caramels: “Roswell is known for UFOs, but it should be known for these caramels instead!” So he asked me about them, but I’d never heard of them. Nevertheless, he gave me the book for Christmas.
The caramels seem to be mentioned in every promotional piece I’ve seen, probably because they’re highlighted on the inside cover. The story is, the women’s group at the Episcopal church made these as an annual fund-raiser for decades, finally ending in the 90s. In other words, while I lived there. The thing is, even after reading the story (not just Matthew’s retelling), I can’t remember that I’ve ever encountered these caramels! I asked Paulene about it when I saw her on the 26th, and she didn’t know about them either. Perhaps Erin would have, since his father was a doctor and perhaps more likely to have traveled in those circles. I still need to ask my parents about it (although we might have discussed it over Thanksgiving).
So while we have all this free-time and extra kid-entertainment at the grandparents’ house, I decided to make them. They came out pretty good, although they were a bit too sweet and the taste was not quite complex enough. Perhaps we should toast the pecans? Use dark brown sugar instead of the specified light brown? More butter? Cook it longer? Welsh smoked sea salt on the top? (just kidding) We plan to make this part of our holiday gift repertoire, so we’ll need to perfect it. (I’m thinking of all these references to ‘caramelizing’ when roasting vegetables or cooking onions, and here I am trying to make actual caramels and I can’t get that depth of caramel essence. Sigh.)
The next day, I dipped slightly more than half in chocolate. Tip: when you’re in a small town and don’t know the sources for gourmet ingredients, Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips are a good stand-in for high-end chocolate. I even found Guittard chocolate chips, but they were semi-sweet and I was trying to tone down the sweetness, so I stuck with bittersweet. (Aside: I did a taste-test comparison of Guittard and Nestle semi-sweet and there is definitely a difference.)
Z-boy claimed that he couldn’t taste the caramel any more with the chocolate dip. I’m not sure I agree, but I made two which were half-dipped to test it out. However, those were eaten before I had a chance to sample. I suppose I could eat half the chocolate off of one to see if it makes a difference. C-boy claims he hates dark chocolate (the main reason we didn’t dip ALL of them), but it hasn’t been enough to keep him from these.
The cookbook also has directions for “maple snow candy” – apparently the trick is to boil the syrup beforehand. We’ve tried variants on this but now that I know the real method we’ll have to do it again, next big snowfall.